An internationally acclaimed performance artist, social activist, producer and director who has championed the use of arts as an instigator for social change for many years.
Dr. Mallika V Sarabhai is an internationally acclaimed performance artist, social activist, producer and director who has championed the use of arts as an instigator for social change for many years. Since 1978, Mallika has been Director of the Darpana Academy, a multi-arts institution in Ahmedabad. Under her leadership, Darpana has become one of the leading institutions in creating innovative ways to engage communities in tackling social and environmental issues.
Mallika grew up in a household of creators, innovators and leaders. Mallika excelled in academics, receiving her MBA from the Indian Institute of Management at the age of 20 and her Doctorate in Organizational Behavior from Gujarat University at the age of 22. In 1978 she became director of the Darpana Academy which her mother, Mrinalini Sarabhai, founded in 1949.
The organization grew and expanded under Mallika’s leadership to include new programs, including a program devoted to researching folk music and dance (“Janavak”) and a program dedicated to the use of arts for development (Darpana for Development). In 1994, Darpana built the Natarani theatre venue and café. Today, Natarani is the central hub for performing arts events in Ahmedabad, and regularly hosts artists, films, and other performances from across the spectrum of genres and geography.
Dr. Sarabhhai’s work as a producer and director of television began in 1980. In 2000 she became the CEO of the TARA channel in Gujarat. In a short period of time, TARA established itself as a groundbreaking species of television. Mallika Sarabhhai brought her diversity of experience into the television channel and created programs that used every conceivable genre of television – fiction, soaps, music videos, chat shows, quizzes, interviews and game shows – always with development and empowerment as the focus, but always entertaining enough to hold a viewer. The channel accomplished many firsts for Gujarati television and also Indian television; there were talk shows that, for the first time, allowed constituents to directly address the electoral candidates, investigative stories that instigated actual change, interview shows that asked thousands of people for their opinions on topics relevant to their lives and their society; people who had never before been given a chance to speak publically about these issues.
Following the TARA experience, Dr, Sarabhhai created a new department in her organization to continue the work that had begun with TARA. Dr. Sarabhhai and Darpana Communications have, since 2002, produced over 3000 hours of broadcast material with the aim of turning popular television into a venue for people to express their concerns, understand other perspectives, learn about their own world, and instigate change. Dr. Sarabhhai and Darpana Communications continue to create material that is as entertaining and compelling as it is bold, innovative, and relevant to society.
Dr. Sarabhhai’s innovative work has won her many awards and accolades, including the Padma Bhushan from the Government of India, the Chevalier de Arts et Lettre from the Government of France, the International Lifetime Achievements Award 2009 by International Congress of Women, the Crystal Award 2009 by Davos World Economic Forum, the UNFPA – Laadli Media Awards for Gender Sensitivity 2006-07 for consistent artistic engagement on gender issues, the Paul Harris Fellowship by the Rotary International New Delhi, 2004, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Creative Dance, 2001, the Chevalier des Palmes Academiques from the French Government in1999, the Gaurav Puraskar for Contribution to the Arts from the Government of Gujarat in1992, Gold Medal - CIOFF Dijon for leading the best folk dance group in1984, the Golden Star Award for Best Dance Soloist from the Theatre De Champs Elysees in 1977 and many more.
Today, she creates and performs, gives lectures and workshops, makes films, writes and speaks, all in the hope of being able to spark something that will lead to a more just and humane world.